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Happy Endings: Special Edition

The House of Representatives passed the non-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act today by a vote of 235-184.

Read lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s statement after the jump.

Today, the House took an historic vote on the Employment Non- Discrimination Act, a bill that expands the law of the land to prohibit job discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation. This is an historic moment in the on-going movement for equality in this country. As in all movements, achieving success is a process, and today’s legislative accomplishment marks a milestone, but certainly not the end, of our quest.

I offered an amendment to H.R. 3685 because I strongly believe that we must prohibit job discrimination against people because of their gender identity.

This is a complex issue. Few people are very familiar with it or understand how a person’s body might not match one’s internal sense
of gender. But, there are Americans who confront this reality and therefore seek to live as the other gender in order to feel whole.
This is not a new phenomenon… it is not a fad. And it certainly is not a reason to suffer discrimination in the workplace.

The importance of non-discrimination laws cannot be overstated. Substantively, they provide legal remedies and a chance to seek justice.

Symbolically, they say that, in America, we judge our fellow citizens by their integrity, character, and talents; not their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, age, or disability.

(more)
Some people have asked why I insisted on bringing an amendment to the floor, only to withdraw it without a vote. The reason is simple. Those left behind by this bill deserve to hear, on the floor of the House, that they are not forgotten and our job will not be finished until they, too, share fully in the American Dream.

Those who would practice employment discrimination, who permit bullying or ostracism on the job, who hire or fire based on
stereotyped notions of what is masculine and what is feminine, rather than on a person’s skills and ability, need to hear, from the floor of the House, that such practices are not acceptable in our society.

Irrational hate or fear have no place in our society. If we truly believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if we truly want to protect the most vulnerable in our society, if we continue to profess that all men are created equal, then we must work toward achieving the American Dream for all…not just for some.

So, I join with my colleagues in celebrating House passage of a bill that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This is important and necessary legislation. And I remain committed, as we all are, to passing legislation that bans workplace
discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

By:           Andrew Belonksy
On:           Nov 7, 2007
Tagged: , , , , ,

  • 18 Comments
    • Ash
      Ash

      This “victory” is bittersweet. I can’t help but feel guilty that while my rights are more protected now, the (lack of) rights of trans Americans remain the same.

      Nov 7, 2007 at 6:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rt. Rev. Dr. RES
      Rt. Rev. Dr. RES

      To those Americans who applaud this divisive and totally honourary or symbolic vote that accomplishes not one right…which excludes my American spouse — congratulations on your Pyrrhic victory. You deserve applause because the cost was expensive indeed….the cohesiveness (yes, that word) of the LGB and T community.

      Nov 7, 2007 at 6:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • flightoftheseabird
      flightoftheseabird

      While I completely understand your situation Rev, this bill highlights that there is no real cohesiveness in the LGBT community. We are as varied as the general population. For those LGB’s in those 31 states where they can be fired for being LGB it is not a “divisive and totally honourary or symbolic vote that accomplishes not one right” or a “Pyrrhic victory.”

      Nov 7, 2007 at 8:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rt. Rev. Dr. RES
      Rt. Rev. Dr. RES

      Flightoftheseabird – I understood that in order for a bill to become law in the United States that a bill, like this ENDA, originates in one chamber, and is allowed by the affected committee to reach the Rules Committee and the majority allows the bill to reach the floor.

      OK, this ENDA passed the House. A similar bill must pass the Senate. A bicameral committee sits to iron out differences in the bill. The President must sign the bill into law or veto it outright or by pocket veto. A vote to override has to have a plurality and has never been acheived by the DLC centrists against the neocons.

      Again, I understood this was a symbolic vote since Bush would never sign it into law and there are no votes to override, and you have no easy ride in the Senate. It was a Pyrrhic victory since ENDA is NOT a law of the United States?

      Am I right or am I right??

      Nov 7, 2007 at 8:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • flightoftheseabird
      flightoftheseabird

      Yes i understand the process of how a bill becomes law. We’ll see how things play out in the senate and with the President. There are some religious concessions in there so perhaps he will sign it. I am under no illusion that this president supports rights for anyone outside of his corporate fascists. But only time will tell.

      Nov 7, 2007 at 8:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • adamblast
      adamblast

      It’s a real victory. And I am celebrating. Sexual orientation protections are a big step forward, and deserve to succeed.

      I hope trans protections can be added before the bill, or some future version of it, becomes law. But I’ll support GLB rights every time.

      Nov 7, 2007 at 8:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • kamasutrajones
      kamasutrajones

      Can I, as the lone gay conservative on this blog commentary, point out that 35 of those awful, horrible, evil, nasty Republicans voted for this bill. May that be the end of gross generalizations against those who don’t follow the liberal gay party line.

      Yeah, right. Donkeys will fly soon, too.

      Anyway, I think every one of us (no matter our party affiliation) owe a debt of gratitude to the following Representatives: Biggert, Bono, Campbell (CA), Castle, Davis (Tom), Dent, Diaz-Balart (both sisters), Dreier, English (PA), Flake, Fossella, Frelingshuysen, Gerlach, Gilchrest, Hobson, Kirk, Knollenberg, Kuhl (NY), LoBiondo, McCotter, McCrery, McHugh, Miller (MI), Pratts, Pryce, Porter (OH), Ramstad, Reichert, Ros-Lehtinen, Ryan (WI), Saxton, Shays, Tiberi, and Walden (OR).

      Nov 7, 2007 at 8:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tony Smith
      Tony Smith

      It’s a good start!

      Nov 7, 2007 at 9:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SeaFlood
      SeaFlood

      “Few people are very familiar with it or understand how a person’s body might not match one’s internal sense of gender.”

      Although I understand why she phrases it this way, I hate the implications. “Gender” like “race” is a social construct that is a lived reality. In that light, it has less to do with matching one’s internal sense of gender and more to do with society’s expectations of a body based on it’s genitals.

      “… stereotyped notions of what is masculine and what is feminine”

      There are stereotypes, to be certain, but masculine and feminine are qualities based on binary gender fascism which we all know and understand because we are raised to believe that genitals dictate how a person is supposed to behave within a gendered construct.

      “Irrational hate or fear have no place in our society. If we truly believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if we truly want to protect the most vulnerable in our society, if we continue to profess that all men are created equal, then we must work toward achieving the American Dream for all…not just for some.”

      HERE, HERE!

      Nov 7, 2007 at 10:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Matt
      Matt

      “So, I join with my colleagues in celebrating House passage of a bill that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
      This is important and necessary legislation.” This modest, partial limited, Pyrrhic, imperfect, doomed victory was utterly unthinkable in the past 200 some-odd (and some odder than others) years of US history. Flaws and imperfections aside, this is a momentous occasion, in which (as has been pointed out) over 30 republican representatives joined. Could we quit bickering, sniping, complaining, flag-waving and snarking at each other for a few minutes to note that something truly noteworthy has happened?

      Nov 7, 2007 at 10:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bill Perdue
      Bill Perdue

      We’ve lost this battel in our war for complete equality. ENDA. Whether or not Bush keeps his veto promise and whatever the outcome of the wheeling and dealing by the clowns in Congress, this much is clear. We desperately need civil rights protections with real teeth to defend ourselves from bigots on the job, in housing, healthcare, marriage rights, etc.

      According to Lambda Legal if these protections don’t include gender identity they won’t have the legal weight to win in the courts and commissions. Those bodies are overwhelmingly biased on the side of employers, businesses and bigots. Going up against them without the necessary tools is a wasted effort. Then Democrat version of ENDA won’t fly in the courts or the commissions. It’s toothless. It’s an empty, cruel hoax.

      That’s why, fifty odd years after the passage of the various Civil Rights Acts that ‘outlawed’ racist discrimination, bigotry and bias still produce widespread poverty, housing and job discrimination and why lethal racist travesties like Katrina are the norm, not the exception. That’s why after the incidents in Jena the hanging noose has become the new symbol for the old bigotry.

      When the Democrats made their closed door decision to strip ENDA and offer their bigot/boss friendly version their only concern was their grubby quest for money from bosses, bigots and lobbyists. We were not part of the equation and they threw all of us, not just transsexuals under the bus. No one will ever forget that, in spite of the spin doctors, apologists and quislings. Nor will we forget that they traded us, one again, as they did with DOMA and DADT, for money and to pander to bigots.

      WITH DEMOCRATS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS REPUBLICANS?

      What was true when the first American Revolution birthed our nation is true today; listen to what Sam Adams had to say on the subject of politicians who’d sell out for a few dollars or a few votes:

      ”IF ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace.

      We seek not your counsel, nor your arms.

      Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” Samuel Adams, Boston, 1777

      In 1820, discussing the future of the Union and slavery, Thomas Jefferson said “”… this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror.”

      The treachery of the Democrats is our fire bell.
      It’s a clear warning, we have no choice but to move on and build a political voice independent of the Republicans and Democrats. It’s time to defiantly step out of the last closet, dependence on our enemies in the Democratic and Republican parties.

      Our battle for equality is compulsory. Once we stop spinning our wheels in the cage the Democrats and Republicans have set aside for us and create our own political identity, cultivate friends and allies and begin to fight in our own name then we’ll have every prospect of winning. We can do that in the union led US Labor Party.
      If we lose who knows what kind of final solution Pat Robertson and Rupert Murdoch will impose, but it’s won’t be pretty.

      Nov 7, 2007 at 10:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mgh
      mgh

      We have little reason to be proud of this bill, and for reasons that for some reason no one is publicizing.

      In order to get it passed, the Dems agreed to two Republican amendments:

      The first Republican amendment, in addition to broadening the already-broad religious exemption, “inserts language clarifying that the term ‘married’ has the meaning given such term in DOMA, directly incorporating DOMA’s definition of marriage.”

      This vote, essentially reaffirming the House’s approval of DOMA, passed by a vote of 402 – 25. Baldwin and Frank voted FOR it. See: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll1054.xml.

      The second Republican Amendent “strike[s] paragraph (3) of section 8(a), which prohibits employers from conditioning employment on a person being married or being eligible to be married.”

      This is highly problematic. This essentially means that an employer can say, “oh, I didn’t fire you because you’re not gay — instead, I’m firing you because you are ineligible for marriage in this state.” Because this provision was stricken, and because the bill prohibits claims called “disparate impact” claims (which prevents such end-runs in the race context), LGB people outside of Washington are entirely vulnerable yet again.

      If this bill were to become law, it would be a travesty, and its defects would likely never be cured. It’s sad that such a historic bill has been so contorted by the Dems just so they could make HRC and their gay donors “happy.”

      Nov 7, 2007 at 11:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • flightoftheseabird
      flightoftheseabird

      Karmasutra: I personally think credit is due to all the Republicans that supported this bill. Sometimes Republicans do indeed do the right thing, and this is one of those times.

      Nov 8, 2007 at 12:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • bboy
      bboy

      mgh is correct in his legal analysis. Between the amendments mgh refers to and the exclusion of ‘gender identity’ as a protected category, this bill will (as passed) do absolutely nothing to protect any gay or lesbian person. This bill reminds me of the weak 1957 civil rights bill, which provided limited protections for voting rights for black Americans that, in practice, led to less blacks being eligible to vote by 1960. HR3685 (as passed) will allow the status quo to continue. Moreover, at least the ’57 civil rights bill was not gutted until it reached the Senate. It’s unfortunate that Frank (whom I deeply respect) would drop the ball so thoroughly just to get a symbolic bill through chambers. I know he thinks this bill will, like the ’57 bill (and it’s 1960 counterpart, which was similarly ineffective), move the ball forward. However, the ’57 bill at least had a chance to PASS when it was gutted and even then the bill’s liberal backers did actively prohibit an effective bill from being offered. And Frank is a lawyer who I know understands how useless this bill would be in practice, even if passed.

      All in all, I have to yawn and hope for more backbone on this issue. No leadership, no effect (even if passed).

      Nov 8, 2007 at 12:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mgh
      mgh

      edit to my above comment:

      it’s LGB people outside of Massachusetts, not Washington.

      Nov 8, 2007 at 1:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • d8alterego
      d8alterego

      No one seems to get it. WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH VOTES. There are two camps out there: the dreamers and the realists. The dreamers want an all inclusive bill to pass tomorrow (that’s the PC way). If everyone wants to wait for a fully inclusive bill, you may have to wait a lot of years for that to happen. The realists know that this bill will help move everyone into the direction of complete equality eventually. Barney Frank introduced this bill around 30 YEARS AGO. Just this year it makes it to the floor and what do we do? We complain because it’s not all inclusive. DO NOT GET ME WRONG! I want an all-inclusive bill, but it would take another decade or more for that to politically happen. I probably would be outraged by the injustice if I were apart of the transgender community and would demand for an inclusive bill. Being rational, I’d like to think I’d realize that Congress doesn’t have the votes or balls/ovaries to tackle it anyway. I am proud of our unified LGB AND T community.

      I hold no illusions that this is all symbolic anyway. The president will veto this bill and, of course, Congress does not have enough votes to over-ride (thanks to GOP hard-liners).

      Speaking of which, their opposition is due to the fact that it would be a litigation nightmare if this bill was passed (because anyone can claim to be gay) and infringes on religous rights. Two words: bull sh*t!

      1. Religion is covered under civil rights laws (how convenient for them). At least they have the federally protected ability to sue a company if they are discriminated against due to their religion whereas we are not covered.

      2. What litigation nightmare? If they are arguing that someone can just claim to be gay and sue the company, can’t the same be said for a religion? Can’t they claim to be one religion or another and not be challenged on their beliefs?

      This is a historic moment. Those congress men and women that are voting for this bill deserve our support because they are putting their political futures on the line for us. We all know that tolerance and respect for our community is hard to come by, yet these politicians are fighting our fight. They also have to make their disagreeing constiuents happy. I, for one, would like to keep these politicians in office so that one day, they can vote again for a completely inclusive ENDA.

      Nov 8, 2007 at 9:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Matt
      Matt

      Again, nothing like this has passed any house of Congress ever before. Yes it’s been rendered symbolic by bush’s promise to veto, and No, it’s not even close to ideal, but consider: A bill that even pays lip service to the rights of even a subset of homosexuals in the United States was unthinkable within recent memory. Clinton backed down on the military issue because of Congressional opposition, and we ended up with DADT. This is, for all its imperfections and annoyances, a significant moment in GLBT history. If nothing else, it is a recognition by a majority of the House of Reps that we exist and are entitled to protection under the law. Better, it has raised the profile of the gender issue in our own community as well as more broadly. Even if it had been a truly inclusive ENDA, it’s always been doomed; the failure to pass it even in one legislative body would have been an important defeat for us, a victory for the Right. I’ll take this Pyrrhic victory any day. A third party? Now there’s an assured strategy to utterly sideline GLBT interests and bask in our smug self-satisfaction while the world spins on around us. So yeah, thanks to our Republican friends! And if we don’t like the current crop of Dems, we should work our asses off to elect better ones. But taking our marbles and running off to a third party will only ensure more decades of neocons, and that’s no good for anyone.

      Nov 8, 2007 at 9:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • guilex78
      guilex78

      The Senate is not bringing this up. Trust me when I say that Kennedy would not bring this quagmire to the Senate. It would be another disaster.

      Nothing has changed from yesterday to today. No one is more protected.

      It would have been a symbolic vote if it had been inclusive, it was a symbolic vote when it was not inclusive. They wanted a win – it was a vanity bill for fundraising purposes. Pelosi and company needed to have a win so when going in 2008, the Dems can say “Hey gays and lesbians – look what we did for you!”

      You want to know what happened? Trans-panic, which almost killed the Hate Crimes bill in May. The people who voted for the bill would have voted for it with trans-inclusion as well. Someone put a bug in their ear and objections began. That is how it went down:

      In may on the day of the House vote for Hate Crimes, the same strategy was used by “someone” on “you sure you are gonna vote for this bill if it includes the trans?”. A flurry of activity on the hill began but it was too late to stop the Hate Crimes bill. The Hate Crimes bill passed.

      This time, it was done weeks before a vote and the bad seed spread.

      No one put their political career on the line with this vote, D8alterego. No one risked their neck for this watered down bill. The republicans who voted for this bill, the democrats who voted for this bill – it was safe and calculated.

      They should have shelved the bill until the had the votes to pass the inclusive bill. Do education on why we needed trans-inclusion and then bring it up when the votes were there. The president is going to veto it, there is no chance of getting this passed into law, why leave some of our community out then?

      What is the point of passing a toothless ENDA? What have we accomplished here?

      Nov 8, 2007 at 9:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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